The Pakistani Media: Reporting News or Making News?

Another typical week in the saga of Pakistan. Twenty percent of the country still underwater. Drone attacks on new levels. NATO helicopters crossing border and attacking within Pakistan. The Chief Justice on the warpath for a quasi-constitutional judicial coup against the elected government. Rumors of military itchiness. Nawaz once again plotting opportunistically. Final preparations for the next round of the Strategic Dialogue in Washington between Secretary Clinton and Foreign Minister Quereshi. One would think that there would be an enormous amount of material for the Pakistani press to be legitimately covering, investigating and reporting on. But hold the presses. This is Pakistan, the home of 50 FOX cable 24/7 stations whose blood sport is trying to bring down elected governments.

The Pakistani rabid media is guilty of something much more serious than bad journalism. Their misreporting, their distortions, their unattributed, unsourced tirades about governmental instability are infectious, and could very well become self-fulfilling prophesies. As the nihilistic narrative goes viral, western media picks up the theme and starts to run with it. When Pakistan’s FOX cable rampages morph into New York Times and Washington Post headlines, not only is the government of Pakistan destabilized, but the future of democracy in the country becomes problematic and with it any chance for the Pakistani to break into a new socio-economic environment where there is hope for their children’s future. The anti-government blood-sport may be good fun for the chattering classes of the Punjabi elite, but for Pakistan’s position in the community of nations, it is deadly serious. And for victims of this summer’s monsoons, this distraction is nothing short of tragic.

Pakistan has many problems, most build up after decades of governmental inaction, economic mismanagement, military coups and terrorist insurgencies. Any government now in power would be under enormous stress from the complexities and the enormities of the current multifaceted challenges. But to use this as an excuse to destroy Pakistani democracy, to destabilize the democratically elected government and to functionally empower terrorists, is shameful.

Maybe it’s at last time for patriotism to replace opportunism for the Pakistani media, for the Pakistani military, for the Pakistani political opposition, and for the chattering Establishment class that thrived under dictatorship. The infection has spread from the cables, to the salons and has made its way across the Ocean to the White House, the State Department and the Pentagon. It threatens not only bilateral relations with the United States. It fundamentally threatens Pakistan’s existence.

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